From a juggler in a circus, Doan Hoang Kien has become an actor, a painter and a director. He tells Thu Trang that he considers himself a colourful picture.
Inner Sanctum: Being an actor, you have impressed us with a number of roles, although you did not train in any cinema school. How did you gain this success?
I think, some of it is destiny and the remaining is hard work. Before working as an actor, I was a student of Viet Nam Circus School, studying the art for more than 10 years. My mother, actress Tuyet Lan, unexpectedly steered me toward films. Once, I happened to meet my mother's friends who were actors, actresses, and directors, and they told my mother, "Why don't you let him act in films? He has the ability." And that's how I, with the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old man, entered the new colourful and eventful world.
After the success of my first film, Hat Giua Chieu Mua (Singing on a Rainy Afternoon), by director Tran Phuong, I did different films such as Khach o Que Ra (Guests from the Countryside), Chien Dich Trai Tim Ben Phai (The Right Heart Campaign), Nhung Nguoi Tre Tuoi (Young People), and Vua Bai Rac (King of the Rubbish Dump). Each role has given me beautiful memories.
To reach this success, I think, first you need ability, and second, which is also very important, is self-study. I learn from life, from my directors, and my colleagues. I learn with love and a studious spirit.
Inner Sanctum: You are successful in films, why did you decide to become a juggler?
In fact, by entering circus, I was merely following in my father's footsteps. My father is the juggler Doan Ngoc Anh who was famous in the Ta Duy Hien circus troupe before the liberation of Ha Noi in 1954. I studied at a circus school from a very young age and started performing when I was 18 years old.
I have performed in many countries and has won awards such as the Special Prize at the 16th International Circus Prize in Paris, France, in 1993.
Being an actor is very attractive, but I have never felt that acting is what I will do forever, although many directors still approach me.
Inner Sanctum: What about painting?
When I was working as a juggler, I once performed two acts, "Keeping balance with sword on a ladder" and "Collective prestidigitation", in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang, and I fell from a height of 10m. It was miraculous that I survived even after falling from such a height. My left hand still bears some scars from that fall.
When I was undergoing treatment at a hospital, some of my artist friends visited me gave me some papers and colour pencils. I used them to practise drawing, although I never had any notion about painting.
During that period, I thought about limitations in life. Life is limited and people are limited in love, and even in their dreams.
Once veteran painter Mai Van Hien saw my paintings, and told me, "You have a predestined affinity with painting. I'll help you."
And then another senior artist, Pham Viet Song, agreed to teach me after seeing my paintings.
With such different work, I feel, I'm like a colourful painting. I'm driven by a lot of thoughts and curiosity while arranging subjects in my paintings. The more I work, the more enthusiastic I am. But, sometimes I feel a little tired because artists in general are often lonely, especially with modern art, which is quite strange for the public.
Inner Sanctum: You have directed a number of short films. Are you successful in this field?
I tried my hand in the field. In my mind, whatever I do, I do my best.
I like trying everything, and art is the path where I discovered myself.
My short films often reflect life and my feelings about life. They explain the ups and downs and tragedies of life.
My short film Vuon (Garden) was projected in Germany as a film that talks about family life. The film is about a small house under an old tree in Ha Noi. A mother, a son, and a grandson live there. The mother is divorced and she always reproached her husband. She kept away from her son because he reminded her of her husband and sadness. Growing up in loneliness, the son understood his mother but could not prevent her from being sad. He only had the garden to share his sadness and loneliness with.
I have been studying to produce films and if I get an opportunity, I will come up with more scripts.
Silver screen is my predestined love and I find joy in it. — VNS